7:37 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, Denise and Jim, thank you for opening up this incredible home. They have been great friends. When I first met Denise, the fact that I was a Blackhawks fan -- (laughter) -- was incidental. But she, right away, lent us her support, and getting to know her has been just an incredible pleasure. And Jim, and your sons, thank you so much for helping to make this evening happen.
I want to thank Jerry Acker, I want to thank Barry Goodman for their great work. You’ve got an outstanding former governor here, Jim Blanchard. (Applause.)
I want to thank Jalen Rose for -- (applause) -- even though he did not pick the Bulls to win the Eastern Conference -- (laughter) -- I’m not sure I agree with his analysis, but he is a wonderful commentator and obviously is a great basketball player. And to have Willie Horton here is a great honor as well. (Applause.)
In smaller settings like this what I love to do is not give a long speech, but just rather say a few things at the top and then just open it up for questions and comments. I just came from the Henry Ford Museum -- what a spectacular museum. I had never been there before; it exceeded all expectation. I wanted to just go in there and roam around a bit, but they keep me on a schedule around here. (Laughter.)
But part of what was remarkable is it captured so much of America’s history -- what makes this country exceptional, what makes us special. You had the ingenuity and the drive and the imagination of the Wright Brothers, and Fords, and all the inventors who helped to trigger this incredible economic superpower, and to build this remarkable middle class that Michigan represents. And then it also had a range of displays about the long battle for freedom, to make sure that everybody was included in that American Dream. So I actually had the chance to sit in Rosa Parks’ bus -- I just sat there for a moment and pondered the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history, but is also a part of that long line of folks -- sometimes nameless, oftentimes didn't make the history books -- but who constantly insisted on their dignity, their stake in the American Dream.
Now, we’ve gone through three and a half very tough years -- worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. When I came into office we were losing 750,000 jobs per month. Michigan had obviously been going through tough times for a decade or more, with outsourcing and plants closing and layoffs. The auto industry was buckling, on its knees, on the verge of not just conventional bankruptcy but potentially a liquidation bankruptcy. And I think a lot of people weren’t sure whether we were going to dip into a Great Depression.
And three and a half years later, we can look and say to ourselves that, in part because of the support of some of the folks in this room who helped not just propel me into office but helped to give America a vision of what we could be, GM is now the number-one automaker in the world again, it’s experience record profits; Chrysler is the faster growing auto company -- (applause) -- is making investments in plants and equipment, and we’ve seen 200,000 auto workers hired back, back on the job. And that’s just part of this steady process of economic healing that’s led to 4 million jobs created in the last two years, businesses starting to invest again, and the financial system stabilized and banks starting to lend again to not just businesses but small -- just like this and small businesses and consumers.
And so as we see the economy growing, it gives people some cautious sense of optimism. As I was at that museum, I reminded myself that when I ran for office in 2008, the goal wasn’t just to get back to where we were in 2006 or 2005. We had gone through a decade in which job growth was sluggish, and incomes and wages flatlined. The goal was to get back to that spirit that was reflected in that museum where we are building again, and we are creating products that are the envy of the world, and creating that sense of opportunity for people, where if they work hard they know that they can support a family, buy a home, send their kids to college, retire with dignity and respect; that sense that everybody, regardless of what they look like or where they come from, what their last name is, that everybody has a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.
And we had a nice big event over at the museum. I told people, sometimes when you look at Washington you may not feel as if that spirit, that can-do spirit -- that spirit of not just innovation and possibility, but also that spirit that everybody can take part in it -- you might not feel that that’s very evident in Washington. Because it just seems like folks in Washington are much more interested in ideological arguments and bickering.
But I tell you, as you travel around the country that spirit is still there. It’s here in Michigan. It’s in Ohio, where I just was. You see it in our men and women in uniform as they’re defending our country around the world. You see it in our places of worship. That sense that we rise and fall together and that it makes sense for us to constantly be thinking not just about ourselves but about others, not just about today but about the next generation. That spirit is still out there. It’s still out there.
And we captured that spirit in 2008. We’ve got to recapture it in 2012. And the stakes could not be higher, because the contrast between the two parties is going to be probably more pronounced in 2012 than it was in 2008. The other side has a very different vision. Yes, they’re patriots; they care about the country. But their basic mission seems to be one in which a few folks are doing well at the top and everybody else is struggling to get by, but that’s okay -- that somehow that is a formula for growth.
We’ve got a different idea -- that we believe in the free market, we believe in individual initiative, but we also believe in giving back, and investing in schools so that everybody gets the education they need; investing in science and technology so that the great inventions that the marketplace takes advantage of are constantly happening here in the United States in our labs and our universities. We believe in creating the infrastructure that serves as a platform for economic growth. We believe in making sure that the vulnerable among us and our seniors have a basic safety net, because we never know which one of us might at some point be stricken with an illness or suffer a layoff. And most of us in this room have somebody in their background who knows what it’s like to fall on hard times and understand how important those safety nets are in order to get people back on their feet so they can succeed.
So we’ve got a lot at stake in this election. The good news is that I think we’ve got the truth on our side, and I think the values that we’re going to be talking about over the next several months are not Democratic values or Republican values, they’re American values. And I think people are going to be, once again, choosing a better future and our best traditions. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. I’m glad you guys are on the team as I go out there and do that.
So thank you very much. (Applause.)
7:47 P.M. EDT